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Soccer World Cup

2014 World Cup Preview: USMNT

Fabian Johnson

Getty Images

Jurgen Klinsmann looks to lead the United States into uncharted territory in this year’s World Cup, but that will not be an easy task as the team looks down the barrel of a seemingly unconquerable draw. Can the U.S. summon the talent and the know-how to slay its demons and advance deep in the tournament?

Since Klinsmann has taken over as the commander-in-chief of USMNT, he has taken a new approach that has drawn criticism and ruffled the feathers of many supporters. Instead of slowly transitioning to a new era of U.S. Soccer, Klinsmann has elected to completely overhaul the foundation that has resulted in a “from the ground up” rebuilding process that will take years before it yields actual results.

This new direction shows a clear focus on the future, and while Klinsmann’s intentions are pure, he might not be around long enough to see the results as he will most certainly draw ire from fans across the country who live by a win-now mentality.

Although Klinsmann has been under heavy scrutiny since taking the position as the face of U.S. Soccer, his impact has been largely a positive one as the team has shown improvement under his tenure. The U.S. punched its ticket to Brazil by topping the CONCACAF hexagonal with a record of 7-2-1. The side hopes to build on its current form by hoping a positive set of recent friendlies propel them to World Cup success, but will the changing of the guard adversely affect a team that is largely inexperienced at the game’s highest level?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you know that the country’s greatest player in the history of the sport will not be donning the red, white and blue this summer. Now that Landon Donovan and a cast of veteran players have been jettisoned from the national team roster, who will step up and spark a run towards greatness?

The U.S. will turn to veterans Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey to provide the kind of inspired play that led them to ink huge deals with their current clubs, but this dynamic duo alone cannot carry a team pitted against a star-studded group that includes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil.

One player poised to have a breakout performance this summer is Fabian Johnson. As a defender who can also play in the midfield, Johnson can make nothing into something spectacular in the blink of an eye as evidenced by his scintillating strike in the Turkey friendly. If the U.S. is to advance out of the so called group of death, Johnson will have to shine brightest in a cast of characters with many new faces.

The United States’ group features no easy task as rivalries are renewed in what is sure to be one of the more entertaining groups at this year’s tournament.

First up for the U.S. is Ghana, a team that has ousted the U.S. in the previous two World Cups. If the U.S. are going to have any shot at getting out of this group, they must defeat the Black Stars by containing the team’s most potent threat in Kevin Prince-Boateng. The United States then face a Portugal side with an allegedly weakened Ronaldo. If Ronaldo is less than fully fit, the United States’ defense will truly consider it a blessing from above as their day would get significantly easier if Ronaldo was hampered by lingering issues. Lastly, the U.S. will face a German side capable of running any team off the field. The Yanks’ passion for this game should be off the charts as the team will be trying to win one for the Gipper by shutting down the stars of Germany; however, this is much easier said than done.

Aside from a rock solid goalkeeper in Tim Howard, the U.S. are questionable at nearly every position around the pitch. With a porous defense and a starved attack, Klinsmann and the Yanks have their work cut out for them at the World Cup.

The U.S. will hang around for much of the game but will ultimately get exposed by several menacing attacks as the central defense provides little resistance. Like many times in the past, the defense will be the Achilles heel of the team as the U.S. bows out yet again in the group stage.

Greg Douglas is a soccer writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.